Automated Creation of a High-Performing Algorithmic Trader via Deep Learning on Level-2 Limit Order Book Data

Aaron Wray, Matthew Meades, Dave T Cliff

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference Contribution (Conference Proceeding)


results demonstrating that an appropriately configured deep learning neural network (DLNN) can automatically learn to be a high-performing algorithmic trading system, operating purely from training-data inputs generated by passive observation of an existing successful trader T. That is, we can point our black-box DLNN system at trader T and successfully have it learn from T's trading activity, such that it trades at least as well as T. Our system, called DeepTrader, takes inputs derived from Level-2 market data, i.e. the market's Limit Order Book (LOB) or Ladder for a tradeable asset. Unusually, DeepTrader makes no explicit prediction of future prices. Instead, we train it purely on input-output pairs where in each pair the input is a snapshot S of Level-2 LOB data taken at the time when T issued a quote Q (i.e. a bid or an ask order) to the market; and DeepTrader's desired output is to produce Q when it is shown S. That is, we train our DLNN by showing it the LOB data S that T saw at the time when T issued quote Q, and in doing so our system comes to behave like T, acting as an algorithmic trader issuing specific quotes in response to specific LOB conditions. We train DeepTrader on large numbers of these S/Q snapshot/quote pairs, and then test it in a variety of market scenarios, evaluating it against other algorithmic trading systems in the public-domain literature, including two that have repeatedly been shown to outperform human traders. Our results demonstrate that DeepTrader learns to match or outperform such existing algorithmic trading systems. We analyse the successful DeepTrader network to identify what features it is relying on, and which features can be ignored. We propose that our methods can in principle create an explainable copy of an arbitrary trader T via "black-box" deep learning methods.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the IEEE Symposium Series on Computational Intelligence (SSCI2020)
Subtitle of host publicationComputational Intelligence in Financial Engineering (CIFEr)
Number of pages8
Publication statusPublished - 2 Dec 2020


  • Automated Trading
  • Financial Markets
  • Deep Learning

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